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Give the Border Patrol a Break

Illustration on what's needed to deal with illegal immigration by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

“A new report from the U.S. Border Patrol proves that only the willfully ignorant can doubt that we’re dealing with an immigration crisis,” Dr. Ed Feulner writes in The Washington Times. “Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 66,000 migrants at the U.S.-Mexican border in February. That’s the highest total for a single month in almost a decade.”

“The entire system right now is at full capacity,” agent Manuel Padilla said. “Actually, it’s overwhelmed.”Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 66,000 migrants at the U.S.-Mexican border in February. That’s the highest total for a single month in almost a decade.

The makeup of the migrant population has changed as well. It used to consist primarily of single men from Mexico. Now it’s more likely to be families and children, arriving by the busload from Guatemala.

In February 2017, families and unaccompanied children made up 27 percent of those arrested or deemed inadmissible at the southern border. Two years later, it’s 62 percent.

Why the change? According to immigration expert David Inserra, loopholes in U.S. immigration law are the culprit. Combined with a weak asylum process, they “are creating incentives for adults to use children as pawns to get into the U.S.,” he writes in The Wall Street Journal.

Consider the unintended consequence of the Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. It requires the Border Patrol to treat unaccompanied alien children from countries other than Mexico differently. Border Patrol turns them over to the Department of Health and Human Services and lets them enter the U.S. pending an immigration-court hearing — one that may be years in the future.

“Many alien children are reunited with their families, who are often in the country illegally as well, and never heard from again,” Mr. Inserra writes.

It took time for word of this provision to spread to prospective migrants. The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border rose gradually for several years, then spiked in 2014. Yet even after President Obama called this an “urgent humanitarian situation,” Congress didn’t act.

Another loophole is more recent: a 2016 court case that requires the Department of Homeland Security to release all children, including those accompanied by parents, from custody. Detaining the entire family is, by law, off the table.

So when a family is arrested crossing the southern border, officials have two choices. One is to release the child while detaining the parents as their request for asylum is processed. But this so-called family separation is naturally unpopular, which leads to the second choice: Release the entire family and hope they show up at an immigration court hearing.

They aren’t the only ones who fail to show up when and where they’re supposed to. U.S. law ensures that aliens who enter illegally aren’t promptly removed — they’re entitled to get a ruling on their asylum claims first. So there’s been a spike in asylum claims by those who say they face a “credible fear” of prosecution.

It’s not hard for most of them to pass their initial hearing, but the immigration-court system that is supposed to give them a final ruling has a backup that averages two years. What happens in the meantime?

“Most then simply disappear into the U.S.,” writes Mr. Inserra. “Some become victims of human trafficking or gangs. Few are ever removed from the country.”

Now you can see why proponents of a border wall often stress the need for “immigration reform.” Because while a border wall is a necessary component — one that will certainly help control the tide of illegal immigration — it’s actually part of a larger solution.

It doesn’t make much sense to build a wall while we continue to leave untouched laws that are drawing huge numbers here in the first place.

So as we pursue a better physical barrier, let’s also change the law to reduce these unhelpful incentives — and give the Border Patrol a much-needed break.

Why I support the president’s national emergency

“On Thursday, the Senate will take up the House resolution to disapprove of the president’s emergency declaration. The question is simple: Do you believe, as President Trump does, that we have a crisis on the southern border that must be addressed to protect American families?”I do — and I will be voting to support the president this week, because the case for the emergency declaration is clear, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) writes in The Washington Post.

“The refusal of Democrats to give our Border Patrol agents and our immigration enforcement officials the resources they need to secure the border puts all Americans at risk. They left the president with no choice but to declare a national emergency, and he is on sound legal footing.”Border security is national security. Illegal immigration continues to escalate, and the situation on our border is not improving, even as Democrats try to deny it. It is a legitimate crisis, and we must respond by providing the necessary resources to protect our citizens.

THE FENTANYL FAILURE

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“In May 2016, a group of national health experts issued an urgent plea in a private letter to high-level officials in the Obama administration,” Scott Higham, Sari Horwitz, and Katie Zezima report for The Washington Post. “Thousands of people were dying from overdoses of fentanyl — the deadliest drug to ever hit U.S. streets.” Yet “despite mounting deaths and warnings, the Obama administration did not take extraordinary measures to confront an extraordinary crisis, experts say.”

Between 2013 and 2017, more than 67,000 people died of synthetic-opioid-related overdoses — exceeding the number of U.S. military personnel killed during the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. The number of deaths, the vast majority from fentanyl, has risen sharply each year. In 2017, synthetic opioids were to blame for 28,869 out of the overall 47,600 opioid overdoses, a 46.4 percent increase over the previous year, when fentanyl became the leading cause of overdose deaths in America for the first time.

“This is a massive institutional failure, and I don’t think people have come to grips with it,” said John P. Walters, chief of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy between 2001 and 2009. “This is like an absurd bad dream and we don’t know how to intervene or how to save lives.”

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Federal officials saw fentanyl as an appendage to the overall opioid crisis rather than a unique threat that required its own targeted strategy. As law enforcement began cracking down in 2005 on prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin, addicts turned to heroin, which was cheaper and more available. Then, in 2013, fentanyl arrived, and overdoses and deaths soared.

“Fentanyl was killing people like we’d never seen before,” said Derek Maltz, the former agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division in Washington. “A red light was going off, ding, ding, ding. This is something brand new. What the hell is going on? We needed a serious sense of urgency.”

But for years, Congress didn’t provide significant funding to combat fentanyl or the larger opioid epidemic. U.S. Customs and Border Protection didn’t have enough officers, properly trained dogs or sophisticated equipment to curb illegal fentanyl shipments entering the country from China and Mexico. The U.S. Postal Service didn’t require electronic monitoring of international packages, making it difficult to detect parcels containing fentanyl ordered over the Internet from China. CDC data documenting fentanyl overdoses lagged events on the ground by as much as a year, obscuring the real-time picture of what was happening.

Facing hotly contested midterm elections in 2018, Congress finally passed legislation aimed at addressing the increasingly politicized opioid crisis, including a measure to force the Postal Service to start tracking international packages.

“How many people had to die before Congress stood up and did the right thing with regard to telling our own Post Office you have to provide better screening?” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), sponsor of the legislation, asked on the Senate floor last fall.

Local and state leaders in hard-hit communities say the federal government wasted too much time at a cost of far too many lives.

“Everybody was slow to recognize the severity of the problem, even though a lot of the warning signs were there,” said Gov. Chris Sununu (R) of New Hampshire, which has one of the highest fentanyl overdose rates in the United States.

“In the city of Manchester, we saw 20 overdoses to 80 overdoses a month. We were like, ‘What the heck is happening with these overdoses?’ ” said Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan.

He said politicians and policymakers held numerous roundtable discussions to talk about solutions, but there was little action.

“I said, ‘If I had to go to another roundtable, I’m going to jump out the window myself because we’re going nowhere with these roundtables,’ ” he said.

National Guard’s border deployment led to 23,034 arrests, 35,000 pounds of drugs seized

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“National Guard troops helped with the arrest of 23,034 illegal immigrants and the seizure of more than 35,000 pounds of drugs in the roughly six months they were deployed to the border in fiscal 2018, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” Anna Giaritelli reports in the Washington Examiner.

The more than 23,000 people arrested were “deportable” noncitizens, DHS said. The operation, dubbed “Guardian Support,” also led federal law enforcement to more than 6,100 people who were later turned back, the data said.

Because guardsmen are military personnel and not law enforcement officers, they cannot apprehend people. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents apprehended thousands as a result of guardsmen who were monitoring cameras, flying helicopters, and piloting planes.

Troops are providing support from the air, surveillance backup, and assistance with infrastructure projects such as vegetation clearing and road maintenance, not including border wall construction. Guardsmen can also be used to free up agents to leave their desks and get back out to the field.

The troops monitoring remote video surveillance systems have then been able to report sightings to a greater field of agents, and thus the number of apprehensions has increased, officials have said.

Marijuana accounted for the vast majority of the drugs seized with the aid of National Guard troops, more than 34,600 pounds. But they also helped seize 526 pounds of methamphetamine, 47 pounds of heroin, and 18 pounds of cocaine.

border

President Trump authorized the deployment last April following the emergence of a caravan of Central American migrants headed to the southern border.

A little more than 2,100 remain deployed, but that number has already started to drop and will continue to drop in the coming weeks as blue states pull out from the mission, according to Pentagon officials.

The mission was renewed through Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2019. Previous administrations, including the George W. Bush and Barack Obama White Houses, have ordered the National Guard to the southern border to improve border security.

BIDEN KNOCKS TRUMP ON MEDICARE CUTS, FORGETS HE PROPOSED THE SAME

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Former Vice President Joe Biden “criticized President Donald Trump’s proposed 2020 budget for doing what his own administration asked for in their time at the White House. Biden decried the budget, saying, ‘Did you see the budget that was just introduced?’” Saagar Enjeti writes in The Daily Caller. “The proposed reductions to Medicare exactly mirror the same mechanism proposed by the Obama administration.

”Biden decried the budget, saying, “Did you see the budget that was just introduced? . . . Almost a trillion dollar cut in Medicare.”

“Why?” he continued. “Because of a tax cut for the super wealthy that created a deficit of $1.9 trillion, and now they gotta go make somebody pay for it.”

A White House source argued to The Daily Caller that “either Biden never read his own administration budgets, he’s losing his memory, or he’s already bailing on Obama to appeal to the new socialists in his party.”

The staffer noted that the proposed reductions to Medicare exactly mirror the same mechanism proposed by the Obama administration.The reductions are baked-in expectations of Medicare payment savings based on reduced payments to hospitals and in expected reductions for the price of prescription drugs.

“What we are doing is putting forward reforms that lower drug prices, that because Medicare pays a very large share of drug prices in this country, it has the impact of finding savings,” Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought said at a Monday press briefing.

Vought added, “We’re also finding waste, fraud, and abuse. But Medicare spending will go up every single year by healthy margins, and there are no structural changes for Medicare beneficiaries.”

Peter Sullivan of the Hill noted based on a Center for Responsible Federal Budget analysis that “the vast majority of the Medicare cuts in Trump’s budget, released on Monday, are to payments to hospitals and doctors, not cuts to benefits for seniors on the program,” adding that the reductions “closely resemble or build upon proposals made in President Obama’s budgets.”

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